Friday, April 17, 2009

FDOT files exemption request for CSX right-of-way

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The Surface Transportation Board Friday noted Florida’s Department of Transportation has filed a “verified notice of exception” to acquire 61.5 miles of rail right-of-way owned by CSX Transportation located in five central Florida counties. FDOT seeks to acquire the route to establish "SunRail" regional rail service on the line centered in Orlando; CSX would remain active as a freight operator on the route.

The filing comes even as Florida legislators continue to debate the merits of FDOT’s intent, with many expressing concerns over liability issues and some still convinced central Florida does not require regional or commuter rail service. A key state legislative committee hearing was delayed until this weekend, one industry source tells Railway Age; rail proponents fear the delay threaten legislative approval.

Despite such uncertainty, FDOT’s submission asserts, “The transaction is scheduled to take place on June 30, 2009 (after the May 3, 2009 effective date of the exemption).”

Besides FDOT and CSX, Amtrak and a short line, Florida Central Railroad Co., operate over portions of the route to be purchased; FDOT’s submission to STB affirms that those tenants will continue to operate on the route.